ORSINIAN TALES by Ursula K. Le Guin


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These eleven interwoven stories, written over a period of many years, reflect Le Guin's characteristic feeling for what some call "background": the persistent accumulation of detail about a society's past, present, geography, ecology that give her sf worlds such effortless dimension. Here her "world" is a nameless corner of Mittel-europa. The title suggests the Illyria (Yugoslavia) of Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night. The stories range between the Middle Ages and the 1960s. Places and ambiences are slowly, intensely evoked: the threshold of a prewar September when an aristocratic professor's family returns unwillingly from an idyllic summer home; the beauty of a beloved, airy, high-windowed house long lost to a People's Ministry of Something; the patient, dusty passage of the seasons in a limestone-quarrying town on the Slovenian karst (plain) a few years before WW I. Le Guin can imagine the confines of small lives in a 1920 factory town with as much wonder as a young Christian nobleman's lapse into barbarism in an 1150 backwater. The stories are quiet and loosely plotted: the simple loves, bereavements, choices of very sparely realized people, set against the karst or the beech woods or the memory of beautiful cities. One hopes that Le Guin will return to this bleak, lovely land soon and often.
Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1976
ISBN: 0060763434
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Harper & Row
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1976


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